Artist Chris Ruggiero’s album, ‘I Am Chris Ruggiero’ delivers a scope of 12 refreshed songs belonging to the golden era of rock and roll. The album consists of some of the greatest hits from the iconic age with a twist. Some of the songs include ‘Run to Me’, ‘Betcha by Golly Wow’, and ‘My Cherie Amour’.
Daily Music Roll: Do you think reimagining an old song that was also an iconic hit is more difficult than creating your own music?
Chris Ruggiero: I think all singers who are singing someone else’s lyrics or actors who are reading lines have a mountain to climb, but I think that, as a singer, we have more of a challenge because people are already associating that song with someone else’s voice. So, what I tried to do on this album was to forget the original recordings as much as possible, and read the lyrics and interpret the lyrics in a way that told my story, about my hurt, or about my excitement about being in love, or about my loneliness. Of course there’s always a little bit of fear that people might not like what you did with a particular song or people might hear your voice and decide they prefer the guy’s voice who sang it originally. So, my way of doing this going forward is always going to be to not try to out-do the original. It’s always going to be about me finding my way of interpreting the lyrics and telling the story.
Daily Music Roll: How do you gather the confidence to record tunes which were already big hits during their times?
Chris Ruggiero: Well, that’s only something that happened recently, and thank you for using the word confidence. I was pushed out on stage early on and heard the applause. That was my first vote of confidence. I didn’t have the confidence originally, but I heard the audience voting with their applause and they weren’t throwing tomatoes. Some of them even stood up to applaud, so I knew that I was touching a nerve. The route that I went from there was to surround myself with people who I knew would be honest with me, so that I didn’t have to rely on my own ear to know if what I was doing was worthwhile. I had Clint Holmes, a guy was who Las Vegas entertainer of the years more times than anyone I know, I had my manager, Joe Mirrione, who produces the original recording artists of the 50s, 60s and 70s in concert, I had Bucky Heard and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and then, the kicker, I had Charlie Calello to produce the album. Charlie has had more hits as an arranger and producer than anyone in history. He worked with Sinatra, Streisand, Humperdinck, Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond… So, when guys like the guys I had around me are saying, “Yeah, I think you’ve got something here,” you listen, and it’s easier to have confidence when you’ve got a cheering section of legendary guys like that.
Daily Music Roll: Do you think music is timeless?
Chris Ruggiero: I do, and I think that people – we all – are timeless too. I try to remind my audience that the little wrinkles or gray hairs do not define them. Look at it this way, if you play “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” for a 16-year-old who has no idea that that song came out in 1966 and doesn’t know Pet Sounds from a pet turtle, chances are they’re going to love that song because of what it says and because the melody is just amazing. It’s going to resonate with them because the idea of being in love and wanting to be older so you can sleepover or so you can spend more time with someone you have a crush on – those ideas are timeless. Wanting love, losing love – all of those ideas – and the sentimentality about all of it – those things are truly timeless, and if there’s any doubt, then look at TikTok, which is primarily a teenage platform, and find any other explanation why “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” is one of the biggest songs on there. These songs are timeless and I don’t think they’re going anywhere.
Daily Music Roll: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Chris Ruggiero: Paul Anka for his tone, Frankie Valli for his falsetto, Clint Holmes for his ability to interpret a song and Jerry Vale for how smooth he was.
Daily Music Roll: Are there any contemporary artists whose work you follow?
Chris Ruggiero: Shawn Mendes and Bruno Mars are two artists who I’d say I try to listen to everything they put out and certainly any time Bruno is performing on TV or there’s any chance to see him live – I want to absorb as much of the energy as possible.
Daily Music Roll: Do you think the music of the golden era still finds relevance and engagement in modern times?
Chris Ruggiero: Watch any movie, or watch a few hours of TV and you’ll see a commercial or an episode of a show that’s using some song from the 50s, 60s or 70s and I think that’s the answer. The songs are used to enhance these scenes or to sell a minivan, or to make you feel a certain way about a couple of characters’ relationships. So, they’re not only still relevant, they’re effective. Come to one of my concerts and you see 2 or sometimes 3 generations there. I have people in their 50s coming and bringing a parent who’s in their 70s or even 80s because the music connects them. It’s a meeting place, it transcends age and it gives them something to bond over. I had someone come to my show in Cleveland a few months ago and she brought her grandchildren because they were going through a tragedy in the family and she knew it would be therapeutic for them. I think this music is healing in a way that only the real classics can be.
Daily Music Roll: Everyone says rock and roll is getting replaced in the modern history of music by other dynamic genres. Do you think it is true?
Chris Ruggiero: Well, it’s certainly possible for it to be sidelined, but I don’t know about replaced. I think artists like Harry Styles and certainly Bruno Mars, will make sure that there’s always a place in the Top Ten for a real rock and roll song. And of course, who were they all inspired by? All of the artists and songwriters whose songs I’m re-booting – all of the guys and girls who did it in the 60s and 70s.
Daily Music Roll: Would you consider giving your audience a taste of modern-day rock and roll?
Chris Ruggiero: Well, on the album, I did “And I Love Her” and kind of segued into “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” which came out in 1981. That’s modern day to me! But seriously, I don’t have any desire to shock anyone or to say to a concert audience, “I know you came to hear this kind of music, but I’m gonna do this other thing instead.” However, I do, in my show, sing a little of Bruno Mars “Nothin’ on You” and weave it into “I Only Have Eyes for You” and, speaking of Bruno, I put a little bit of “Just the Way You Are” into “This Magic Moment.” I do that because there’s a connection between the songwriters of the 50s and 60s to the guys who wrote all of the Philly soul and pop-rock of the 70s and 80s, right to the people who are still writing strong melodies and lyrics today. I think Finneas, Billie Eilish’s songwriting partner, has put out some great music and there’s a really good chance I’m going to do one of his songs on my next album. So, what’s the difference between modern-day or vintage? If it’s got good lyrics and a strong melody – if it’s got good bones – it’s fair game.
Daily Music Roll: Do you have an interest in songwriting?
Chris Ruggiero: I do and I don’t know that God gave me that gift where you just sit down and it pours out onto paper, but I am trying. I’m blessed that 2 different teams of professional songwriters have given me a chance to collaborate with them and so I’m trying. I can’t say what will come of it, but the fact that there is a ton of good material begging to be rearranged and re-recorded seems like a good insurance policy for my future.
Daily Music Roll: Do you play instruments?
Chris Ruggiero: I can play enough piano to find notes and hear what a chord should sound like. I know enough so that when my producer says “hit this note” and swears to me it’s not really that high, I can find it on the piano and confront him that he’s lying to me to get me to try to expand my range a bit! At some point, I’ll learn enough so that I can accompany myself on a song or two on my shows. For now, I’ll leave that to the pros on stage with me.
Daily Music Roll: What is your advice for artists who are just starting out?
Chris Ruggiero: Work your voice or your instrument every day like it’s a job. Don’t give up. Find someone who believes in you and find someone who knows better or who’s been there and then listen to them. God gave you 2 ears and one mouth – you’re supposed to use them in that proportion.
Jennifer Stone has turned her love of music toward writing. She is the of the writers of Daily Music Roll and indulges in creating positive reviews, music blog and music press releases for various artists here.